Wednesday 26 May 2021


Salih by Inda Ahmed Zahri, illustrated by Anne Ryan (Ford Street Publishing) ISBN 9781025804645 PB RRP. $16.95

Reviewed by Claire Saxby

Salih is a refugee child escaping toward the sea with his home on his back (which is expressed in the figure of a turtle shell). Joining many others on the long journey, Salih reflects on the happy moments of his life, then wishes to forget the disturbing sounds and images of war. During a period in a camp Salih and many others join an old man painting scraps of paper. This activity brings a brief reprieve to children and adults who paint positive memories together. The turtle shell lies beside him on the ground. Continuing their journey now, Salih carries the artworks rolled and stored in bottles. The sea crossing is dangerous with high waves causing much alarm. The bottles containing the memories are strewn into the sea for others to find and share. Safe on shore the family gathers in a different land with hope in their hearts.

This is a simple story told in sparse text with concepts that children can relate to like Salih likes ice cream, and the joy of painting. Most of the images place the child in the centre of the story in a book illustrated using a muted palette. The book is short enough that discussion on the turtle metaphor and the kites signifying freedom and flight at the conclusion would be simple for teachers and parents to share. This title joins a growing list of Australian titles on refugees, war and displacement that are accessible for everyone.  Age guide 6 plus. 

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